Sex-for-marks students go for only vulnerable lecturers – ASUU president
Against the backdrop of the sacking of Prof. Richard Akindele of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, over a sex-for-marks scandal, and other similar issues in some institutions, including an allegation currently being investigated at the University of Lagos, TARE YOUDEOWEI spoke with the President, Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi
What is ASUU doing concerning the rate of sex scandals across the varsities?
There are some cases that have been reported lately and our union has been worried that such occurred in the first place. We have always institutionalised procedures for tracking, preventing and controlling, as such every branch of the union has ethics and grievances committee, where students are encouraged to lodge complaints. We have always encouraged such cases to be brought to our attention early enough for us to deal decisively with them.
We also collaborate with the universities in handling cases being investigated because anybody can allege that a lecturer did this or that. However, once there is an allegation it should be investigated and where evidence can be advanced, due process should be followed in meting out the appropriate sanctions.
In other words, I am saying that at the level of the union there are structures and at the level of the universities, there are also structures. Where cases have been proved beyond reasonable doubt, our union has always cooperated with the university in applying the correct sanctions. That is what we have been doing and we will continue to do.
Nigerians are calling for the prosecution and possible imprisonment of the sacked sex-for-marks prof., what is your take on this?
When I say those found culpable should be made to face the music, it may also involve prosecution where criminality is established. However, we are not going to stand in the way of justice. But at the same time, we are not going to stand by and allow our members to be maligned and wrongfully persecuted. Those being accused are Nigerians; they come from the larger society. We, as a union, stand for a healthy relationship with our students. We stand for probity and integrity.
What is ASUU doing to orientate lecturers that sex-for-marks is wrong, particularly those that see it as their right?
I want to state that we should not exaggerate this matter. It is not all male lecturers that do it. They are Nigerians, if the entire society is corrupt, we should not think everybody in the university will be saints. Not every lecturer is a saint, whether male or female. But let me also say that we, as a union, stand for integrity. At every point, we make it clear to our members that anybody who allows himself or herself to be caught on the wrong side of the law; we will not go out of our way to defend them.
As regarding orientation, we do regular information, education and communication, each time we have our meetings, we discuss ethical issues, state of our union, as well as state of our universities because we want to remind ourselves of the university culture. The university culture is about lecturers and students relating harmoniously, because you cannot learn from someone who does not interact with you. We are supposed to play the parent’s role. We are supposed to act as parent-substitute for them. So, if you see these students as your children you will not molest them. But you will also agree that even back home there are some parents who do things that are not normal. That is why I say where there are deviants we will support the cause of justice.
On what we are doing to scale up our efforts, we are not relenting. Since this sex-for-marks scandal started, we have also sat back and formed student-staff joint committees on some of these issues and we have come up with a proposal that every faculty should have a suggestion box; departments too. Our secretariat in each university will also have a suggestion box, so where students cannot come up and report formally, they can drop complaints and we will follow up.
Within ourselves, we know some elements are disgracing us and we are not comfortable with it. When you have these cases being reported, nobody can come out clean, except you investigate and find that the person lives above board. It requires an additional effort to prove innocence. We are as worried as the larger society because we know these people are from us.
As such, we are insisting that only qualified people, those that have been taken through the drill, are recruited. When people who don’t have training and proper orientation are recruited, they come with wrong values and find their way towards administration. You find that you begin to have administrative structures that are not transparent and that work against union interest. They end up protecting those that are creating problems and are loyal to them.
We are, therefore, appealing to administrators of our universities to allow the system and structures established to screen those coming into the system properly to run. This is so that unqualified people do not come into the system without proper orientation.
Some female students are alleged to offer sex for marks or male students offer money for marks, what is your take on this?
I don’t see that as a strong defence for any lecturer. We are saying that if you have lecturers that know their onions, they will be able to stave off these advances, because they are not part of the university culture. The culture involves procedures and guidelines that are well spelt out. For instance, guidelines on the conduct of examinations, grading of scripts, return of scores and calculation of students’ scores are laid out, even up to the university senate that will consider the result and award certificates. If the procedures are well laid out, whatever will make you compromise in the process of participating is not desirable.
In fact, if students try that with some lecturers, they will have themselves to blame. It is when they see the lecturer is vulnerable that they try him or her. It is left for lecturers to live above board, show their students that they are models and mentor them in the proper way of handling sacred transactions like award of scores.